You would have seen that the camphor once lit, burns itself out, fully evaporating until there is no residue left in the prayer utensil but leaving behind a sweet fragrance in the air instead. In the same manner, it symbolizes union with God and the promise of the devotee to burn their ego completely without leaving any residue while spreading the light of knowledge to other lives that touches theirs, no matter how brief a time. Just like the scent emanating from the camphor, the devotee, devoid of his ego and arrogance, spreads goodness around themselves.
The flame of the camphor also signifies the flame of consciousness of Lord Shiva where we can surrender all our egos to be burned under the influence of God, no longer to be seen within us. We close our eyes while performing the aarti as if to look within, to our very self or Atman. Self realization can be achieved by realizing ourselves with the flame of knowledge.
At the end of the prayer, the devotee places cupped hands over the flame and touches the eyes and top of the head, symbolizing the illumination of vision and purity of thought.
Some people may question that camphor burning emits thick smoke and thus causes pollution which is bad for health. Please note that Camphor is made through an ancient Ayurvedic method by distilling the bark and wood of a coniferous tree called Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphor) that is largely found in Asia, particularly in India, Sumatra, Indonesia and Borneo. White camphor is a crystalline substance with the chemical formula C10H16O, which is a fantastic anti-oxidant. It is an excellent germicide, and thus purify the atmosphere, it is also believed to remove negativity from the environment. It is toxic to insects and also sometimes used as a repellent to snakes and other reptiles due to its strong odor. Therefore, it is environmental friendly, however, it needs to be burned in moderation at the end of the aarti to avoid any side effects of its smoke containing CO2 also to some extent.
Solid camphor, absorbed through the skin, produces a feeling of cooling similar to that of menthol and acts as a slight local anesthetic and anti-microbial substance. It is a decongestant and can be used as an essential oil for aromatherapy or topical application. Used properly with medicinal understanding, it can decrease the harshness of nervous disorder as well as convulsions, epileptic episodes, nervousness, mental tension as well as chronic anxiety. more